A Travellerspoint blog

Catching Up: An Austin Easter

sunny 85 °F

The month of April was so busy that I didn't have the opportunity to blog about our travels, so I am writing some "catching up" entries. The first place we visited was Texas. Last summer, some of our close friends moved to Austin. We thought about routing ourselves through there on our cross-country road trip, but our friends were scheduled to be out of town when we would pass through. We wanted to visit while we were still living in Phoenix because getting to Texas would be more difficult after moving to Pennsylvania. Everyone was free for Easter, so we decided to take advantage of the holiday weekend for a visit.

Our flight there started off uneventfully. However, when my daughter needed a potty break, I discovered that the bathroom on our Canadair regional jet was extremely small. The only way my daughter and I could both be in there with the door shut was if she was sitting or standing on the seat. Of course, she refused to stand on the seat to pull up her pants and wash her hands, so I had to open the door (once again I offer my apologies to the nearby passengers and thank them for understanding). While this was happening, the pilot announced that we were beginning our descent and he was turning on the seat belt sign. Of course, when I tried to hurry my daughter along, it backfired. I had visions of a flight attendant throwing us out of the bathroom. Thankfully, we got out of there before that happened, and most of our stay in Austin was incident-free.

This trip was mainly about spending time with friends and celebrating Easter. It was great fun to see their son and my daughter interact because they're only five months apart and hadn't seen each other in a year and a half. We even managed to hit a few of Austin's highlights with the kids:

  • Zilker Park. The train ride there was a big hit with the kids. They also enjoyed the playground and an exhibit on water where you could push a button to create a miniature rain shower.
  • The Austin Zoo. Favorites included tortoises, a peacock that roamed the grounds, and goats you could feed.

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  • Eating! We visited the Salt Lick for some famous barbecue.

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That plate of food was mine, but the kid's meal we ordered was nearly as big. I guess it was Texas-sized! This was the site of our other incident, where my daughter fell on the gravel and scraped and bruised her chin. She was shaken up, but fortunately it was nothing serious. She was dancing around the lights of the restaurant later that evening.

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We also had lunch at one of Austin's many food trucks. Way South Philly at 6th and Waller had tasty cheesesteaks and grilled cheese, and they got bonus points when they brought out a basket of blocks for the kids.

We also had another fun food stop at the Big Top Candy Shop on South Congress St., but only after trying on some cowboy hats at Allens Boots!

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In all, we had a great first trip to Austin and hope to visit again before too long.

Posted by amikulski 17:17 Archived in USA Tagged children food zoo texas Comments (0)

Road Trip Hotels

We only stayed one night at each hotel, so these reviews will be briefer than usual. Every place we stayed at had several things in common: they allowed dogs, had pools, and offered complimentary breakfast and free wireless internet. All were equipped with hair dryers and elevators as well.

Flagstaff, AZ: La Quinta Flagstaff
Our room with two double beds was nice, but the layout was a little weird, with a lot of space in the entryway and just outside of the bathroom. Breakfast was fine, but we wished that they would have had ice water and hot cocoa mix.
Website: http://www.lq.com/lq/properties/propertyProfile.do?ident=LQ939&propId=939

Albuquerque, NM: La Quinta Albuquerque Midtown
One of the recent Trip Advisor reviewers called this the best La Quinta she ever stayed at. I don't know if I have enough La Quinta experience to weigh in on that claim, but I can say that it was a very nice hotel and the best La Quinta on our trip. Our king sofabed room was spacious, and the hotel grounds were pleasant, with some outdoor seating outside the breakfast area. In addition to the standard La Quinta fare, breakfast had some nice extras: scrambled eggs, biscuits, bacon, sausage, sausage gravy, and strawberry topping for your waffles.
Website: http://www.lq.com/lq/properties/propertyProfile.do?ident=LQ423&propId=423

Oklahoma City, OK: Quality Inn Oklahoma City Airport
Several Trip Advisor reviewers complained about highway noise at this hotel. It is right on the I-40, so the rooms facing that direction might be noisy. We were given a room in the back, though, and didn't have any noise problems. The structure of the building is motel-style, with the rooms opening directly onto the parking lot. Our room had two double beds, but space was tight: there was hardly any room between the table and the bed closest to it. We also detected a smell, especially in one corner, so we guessed that a pet who had been in the room previously had an accident there. Breakfast was fine, except for the biscuit gravy, which seemed too milky to me.
Website: http://www.qualityinn.com/hotel-oklahoma_city-oklahoma-OK219

Mascoutah, IL: La Quinta Mascoutah, IL
Looking at the map, we thought that this hotel was at the edge of the metro Saint Louis area. That technically may be true, but for all practical purposes, it is not. Besides the hotel, all that you will find at that exit is a gas station and an airport that no longer has commercial flights. The nearest fast food is 3 miles away. We drove a few exits to find a sit-down restaurant. However, the hotel is in a nice, new facility. The staff was also responsive; we called them when we spotted dog mess in the hallway, and they cleaned it up right away. Their standard La Quinta breakfast was fine, but we would have liked some ice water.
Website: http://www.lq.com/lq/properties/propertyProfile.do?propId=6265

Columbus, OH: La Quinta Columbus West
Our king sofabed room was nice, but we had to go to the lobby to get a blanket and pillows for sofa bed. We only waited a minute for them, but it seems like they should have been in the room. Breakfast had ice water this time, but no hot cocoa mix.
Website: http://www.lq.com/lq/properties/propertyProfile.do?propId=6495

Posted by amikulski 18:54 Archived in USA Tagged children hotels cars Comments (0)

Road Trip Reflections

A friend asked us if we would do this trip again. My answer is yes and no. I'd say yes because traveling together in one car was really the best available option for our move. Our options were:

1. Driving in 2 cars: 1 adult and the dog in one, 1 adult and my daughter in other, switching cars/family members as necessary for everyone's sanity.
I can't imagine having done this because inevitably my daughter would drop something or want a new show on the iPad, so the car that she would be in would always be pulling over.

2. Drive in 2 cars, but persuade another adult to join us: this way my daughter would travel in a car with 2 adults, with the one in the passenger seat attending to her needs.
Not a bad idea, but after some searches of airline fares, we decided not to pursue this any further: the cost of the one-way fares--and the one from State College in particular--made this choice comparable in price to paying to have one car shipped to us.

3. Ship a car. My husband drives the other one with the dog, while my daughter and I fly one-way to PA.
This option would make it quite easy for my daughter and me to get to PA, but what would happen once we got there? We'd be in an empty house with very little to keep her entertained--and it would be that way for a good 5 to 6 days. Plus, my husband wouldn't get any break from the driving.

4. Similar to option 3, but instead my daughter and I fly one-way to MI to stay with family.
There would be more toys and more people to keep my daughter entertained, but this would have added several hours to my husband's solo drive. The other issue with this option was that it was a gamble: if our stuff were to come late in the delivery window, it could be a nice opportunity to see people, but if it were to come early (as it did), then my husband would be racing to MI to pick us up and then leaving the next day for PA. This left us with...

5. Ship a car, with everyone traveling together in the other car: a long, sometimes grueling journey, but avoiding the pitfalls of the other options.

That said, I have to say that, unless I am faced with similar circumstances and options, I will never again sign up voluntarily for a 6-day family road trip across the USA! Road trips are fine, but the pace was too hectic to even enjoy hotel pools, much less the cities we visited. Taking along the dog and having a car that was packed pretty full of stuff besides our luggage (laptops, dog bed, etc.) just added to the stress. We have another road trip for this summer, but it will definitely be shorter and (I hope!) more enjoyable.

Thanks for reading! Next, I will do a roundup of the places we stayed and catch up on our April travels and sightseeing.

Posted by amikulski 18:02 Archived in USA Tagged children cars Comments (0)

Road Trip Day 6: The Home Stretch!

sunny 75 °F

This was our shortest day of driving yet, and best of all, we'd stop for the night at home. We even had the surprise of crossing another state off our list: West Virginia. We hadn't looked at the atlas closely enough to realize that we would travel through it for about 30 miles. We didn't see much, but what we saw was pretty.

We also finally found an outdoor play area with picnic tables for lunch: the McDonalds in Greensburg, PA. We had to briefly walk in the restaurant with our dog to get to it--my husband carried him--but nobody complained. Of course, as luck would have it, my daughter wasn't very interested in the play area when she first saw it. She eventually played there a bit, though.

We pulled into our new place in State College in the late afternoon. We had many things to do in the upcoming days, but it was great to be home!

Posted by amikulski 19:00 Archived in USA Tagged children cars Comments (0)

Road Trip Day 5: Mascoutah, IL to Columbus, OH

sunny 80 °F

The trip is starting to take its toll on us by this point: we--and, yes, I'm including the adults here--woke up a bit crankier than usual. Thankfully, the drive to Columbus is our shortest yet. It also helps that everyone--again, adults included--had a chance to nap in the car this morning.

We have friends in Columbus who also have young kids and met up at one of their houses for dinner. It was great to sit down to a home-cooked meal and spend time with them. My daughter loved playing with other kids her age. Even our dog had the chance to run around the yard with our friends' puppy. It was a nice break for all of us!

Posted by amikulski 18:45 Archived in USA Tagged children cars Comments (0)

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